I was lucky enough to marry my high school sweetheart and never really went through the drama of a bad relationship. Thankfully, my University of Florida Gators have stepped up this year to offer me this type of relationship.
Before people jump on my back, let me preface this with the fact that I am a die-hard Florida Gator fan. My blood pressure rises and falls with them. I bleed orange and blue. But I found that this year’s baby Gators are the bad boyfriends I never had.
The year started off well enough. Granted, the Gators played cupcake opponents, but everyone knew that these boys needed to gain some confidence. I was happy with my relationship at this point.
But like any new relationship, I did not want to see the warning signs. The FSU game should have been the first. My brother-in-law sat to one side of me complaining about how the Gators weren’t on the balls of their feet. They were standing flatfooted. My good friend, Seth, sat on the other side and criticized the lack of heart on defense.
The same can be said of the Ohio State game (I was under the assumption that the University of Florida owned Ohio State…but we all know what happens when we assume). But I had hopes for the SEC season, and they started off well enough. There is nothing like a moral victory over Kentucky in overtime, a come from behind win at Alabama, and a thrashing of Vandy (and Kevin Stallings) to give you some much-needed confidence.
Then came the down turn in the relationship. Two losses to Tennessee, both of which the Gators were winning and had me believing, broke my heart. A close game at Vandy and several blowouts at LSU and Kentucky left me feeling like I was stood up. They reeled me in, gave me hope, and made me think, “Yes, we can win this.”
Then like all bad relationships, I was let down. In the SEC tournament, I claimed I was over them and no longer invested, when we were down by 107 to Alabama (okay maybe a bit of an exaggeration but it sure felt like that). Then they came back and made me think that maybe, just maybe, they could pull it out. Alas, it was not so.
There would be no dancing with this team. No prom, no fancy dress, no one shinning moment. But at heart, I will always be a romantic. Well, maybe a skeptical romantic at this point. I watched as they played with passion in the first two rounds of the NIT, but again facing questionable talent.
Then came the Arizona State game. Against a packed house, the Gators made me believe. They made me remember why I fell in love with them. They played with heart, and passion. They did not become discouraged when the Sun Devils came back to take the lead after being down by 14 in the first half.
I was sure they were going to fold, but they proved me wrong. They stood up and announced to me that they weren’t seeing anyone else and they were dedicated to me (okay that last part didn’t happen, but at the time I feel like it did).
Now they head to the Final Four (of the NIT but at least they are still playing). And I believe again. So much so that I am hoping for a rematch with either Ohio State or Ole’ Miss. I still have my doubts. I worry about the lack of any inside game. I worry about Speights’ conditioning. I worry about Werner getting into foul trouble. I worry about living and dying by the three. I worry about defense.
But if this season has proven anything to me, it is that no matter how badly this relationship treats me, my love affair with Gator basketball will continue. However, in the fairness of full disclosure, I need to admit that I am not a faithful lover. The spring game is days away and I will stray back to football, and live and die by that defense (at least until basketball season starts again).